Social Security column
By Karyl Richson
Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in
Milwaukee, WI
MARCH 2012

If you didn’t sign up for Medicare Part B medical insurance when you first became eligible for Medicare, you now have an
opportunity to apply — but time is running out. The deadline for applying during the general enrollment period is
March 31. If you
miss the deadline, you may have to wait until 2013 to apply.

Medicare Part B covers some medical expenses not covered by Medicare Part A (hospital insurance), such as doctors’ fees,
outpatient hospital visits, and other medical supplies and services.

When you first become eligible for hospital insurance (Part A), you have a seven-month period in which to sign up for medical
insurance (Part B). After that, you may have to pay a higher premium — unless you were covered through your current employer's
group health plan or a group health plan based on a spouse's current employment. You are given another opportunity to enroll in
Part B during the general enrollment period, from January 1 to March 31 of each year. But each 12-month period that you are
eligible for Medicare Part B and do not sign up, the amount of your monthly premium increases by 10 percent.

There are special situations in which you can apply for Medicare Part B outside the general enrollment period. For example, you
should contact Social Security about applying for Medicare if:
•        you are a disabled widow or widower between age 50 and age 65, but have not applied for disability benefits because you are
already getting another kind of Social Security benefit;
•        you worked long enough in a government job where Medicare taxes were paid and you meet the requirements of the Social
Security disability program and became disabled before age 65;
•        you, your spouse, or your dependent child has permanent kidney failure;
•        you had Medicare medical insurance (Part B) in the past but dropped the coverage; or
•        you turned down Medicare medical insurance (Part B) when you became entitled to hospital insurance (Part A).
You can learn more about Medicare by reading our electronic booklet, Medicare at Or visit
the Medicare website at You may also call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227; TTY 1-877-486-

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If you’re a young worker, retirement probably seems like a lifetime away. In fact, you may wonder if your contributions to Social
Security, deducted from your paycheck, actually cover you for anything right now. The answer is yes, they do. And the time to learn
about Social Security and what it can do for you is now.

By working in a job covered by Social Security, you are earning disability and survivor insurance protection. For example, a worker
under age 24 paying Social Security taxes for as little as one and a half years may be insured for disability and survivors benefits.

If you’re like most workers, you probably don’t have private long-term disability insurance. But you do have disability protection
through Social Security, which provides coverage to you and your family if you become disabled. About one in four of today’s 20-
year-olds will become disabled before reaching age 67 — so it could happen to you. The average disability benefit paid in 2012 to
a worker with a spouse and two children is $1,892 a month.

Social Security also provides valuable survivors benefits. It is a sad truth that about one in eight young Americans can expect to die
before reaching age 67. Social Security’s survivors insurance pays an average monthly benefit in 2012 of $2,543 for a spouse and
two children of a young worker with average wages who dies.

Social Security provides you and your family with protection now. But it’s good to think ahead to retirement, too.

Young workers, spring into action and learn more about your own retirement! A good way to start is by checking out the Retirement
Estimator at Using this online tool, you can get an instant, personalized estimate of your own
future benefits. That will be a big help in deciding how much you need to save for a comfortable retirement.

For more information on how Social Security protects younger and older workers alike, visit our website at

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March 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts.

It was on March 9, 1912 that Juliette Gordon Low made a phone call to her cousin and said, "I've got something for the girls … and
we're going to start it tonight." A few days later, on March 12, she organized the first U.S. "Girl Guide" troop in Savannah, Georgia,
with 18 members in two patrols. Today, there are more than three million Girl Scouts.  The organization’s motto is “Be prepared.”
That same advice can help your retirement savings to grow as plentiful as the Girl Scouts have over the last 100 years.

The best way for you to “be prepared” when it comes to retirement planning is to visit our online Retirement Estimator. The
Estimator can give you an instant, personalized picture of your future retirement benefits from Social Security. Enter different
scenarios (such as different future earnings amounts or dates of retirement) to find out how that will change the benefit amount you
can expect to receive. It’s available at

Knowing how much you can expect to receive from Social Security, coupled with any retirement plans you may have through your
employer, will help you figure out how much you need to save for your retirement.
Looking for more tips on planning for the future? Pay a visit to our Benefits Planners as well. You can use the planners to help you
better understand your Social Security protection as you plan for your financial future. Get started at

Another great source of help is the Ballpark E$timate. It includes a two-page worksheet that helps you quickly identify approximately
how much you need to save to fund a comfortable retirement. The Ballpark E$timate takes issues like projected Social Security
benefits and earnings assumptions on savings, and turns them into language and mathematics that are easy to understand. You
can find it at

You don’t have to be a Girl Scout to be prepared. Sit down at your computer — perhaps with a box of Girl Scout cookies — and plan
for your future. You could be celebrating your own 100th year one day; you might as well do it comfortably.

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The National Education Association’s “Read Across America” celebration is an annual reading motivation and awareness
program that calls for every child in every community to celebrate reading on March 2, the birthday of beloved children's author Dr.

Taking some pointers from the Cat in the Hat, Social Security’s own Mouse in the House has something for you to read. You may
learn a thing or two …

The sun was not shining. Outside it was wet.
Grandma was whining, all full of regret.

I sat there with Granny. Just looking outside.
I asked, “What’s wrong?” Then she almost cried.

She said, “I’m unhappy. You want to know why?
I turned 66, and it’s time to apply!
But outside it’s so wet and so slick and so cold,
When the weather gets better, I might be too old!”

Every One here in Oneville, when they reach the right number,
Applies for Social Security. To forget is to blunder.

But all we could do was to wait, wait, wait, wait.
To wait for nice weather. It wasn’t so great.

And then, something went CLICK!
That click made our hearts tick!

We looked, and remembered what we had in our house.
We looked and remembered! Our house had a mouse!

The mouse said, “I know it’s bad weather for driving.
But today’s just the right kind of day for onlining!
I know a good website, one that you’ll love.
And I call it Social Security dot gov!”

We logged on the computer and went to the site.
In a matter of minutes, Granny’s smile was on tight!

The mouse said, “Online is the way to apply!”
With a grin on her face, Granny said “Oh my!”

Granny cheered, “Look, look!” And she shook with glee.
“I’m done applying! That was so, so easy!
The application was so slick and so fast and so fun,
Let’s go dance in the rain, now that I’m done!”

Then Grandpa woke up, looking quite down.
His pajamas were frumpy. On his face was a frown.
His age was rising and so was the water.
“I don’t want to go out in that rain, but I oughter.”

“What will I do,” Grandpa asked about later.
“I need to apply, and I’m not a good wader.”

Granny and I did not know what to say.
Should we tell him about what we’d done here this day?
Should we help him get to Social Security online?
We did. And now Granny and Grandpa are fine.

When retirement age comes to someone you love,
Take them to Social Security dot gov.

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I lost my Social Security card, should I get a new one?
If you know your Social Security number, you may not need a replacement card.  You can replace your Social Security card for free if
it is lost or stolen, but you are limited to three replacement cards in a year and 10 during your lifetime. Learn more at

I worked for the last 10 years and I now have my 40 credits. Does this mean that I can stop working and get the maximum Social
Security retirement benefit when it’s time to retire?
The 40 credits are the minimum number you need to qualify for retirement benefits. However, we do not base the amount of the
benefit on those credits; we base it on your earnings over your working lifetime. To learn more about Social Security retirement
benefits and how your benefit amount is figured, read our online publication, Retirement Benefits, at


I want to estimate my retirement benefit at several different ages. Is there a way to do that?
Use our Retirement Estimator at to get an instant, personalized retirement benefit estimate
based on current law and your earnings record. The Retirement Estimator, which also is available in Spanish, lets you create
additional "what if" retirement scenarios based on different income levels and “stop work” ages.

If both my spouse and I are entitled to Social Security benefits, is there any reduction in our payments because we are married?
No. We calculate lifetime earnings independently to determine each spouse’s Social Security benefit amount, and couples are not
penalized simply because they are married. When each member of a married couple meets all other eligibility requirements to
receive Social Security retirement benefits, each spouse receives a monthly benefit amount based on his or her own earnings.  If
one member of the couple earned low wages or failed to earn enough Social Security credits to be insured for retirement benefits,
he or she may be eligible to receive benefits as a spouse. Learn more about earning Social Security credits by reading our
publication on the subject at


I am receiving Social Security disability benefits.  Is there a way for me to try working and not lose my benefits?
We have special rules called "work incentives" that help you keep your benefits and Medicare while you test your ability to work. For
example, there is a “trial work period” during which you can receive full benefits regardless of how much you earn, as long as you
report your work activity and continue to have a disabling impairment. For more information about work incentives if you collect
disability benefits and want to return to work, we recommend that you read the leaflet, Working While Disabled-How We Can Help


I currently receive Social Security disability benefits. Is there a time limit on how long you can collect Social Security disability
Your disability benefits will continue as long as your medical condition has not improved and you cannot work. We will review your
case at regular intervals to make sure you are still disabled. Learn more by reading our publication, Disability Benefits, at www.


Is it true that a person can own a home and still be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits?
Yes. A person who owns a home and lives in that home can be eligible for SSI benefits. Although there is an asset limit for people
to qualify for SSI, some things don’t count toward that limit, such as a house, a vehicle, and some funds set aside for burial
expenses. To learn more about SSI and the eligibility requirements, browse our booklet, Supplemental Security Income at

I know you need to have limited resources to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI). But what is considered a "resource?"
Resources are things you own that you can use for support. They include cash, real estate, personal belongings, bank accounts,
stocks, and bonds. To be eligible for SSI a person must have $2,000 or less in countable resources. (A married couple must have
$3,000 or less in countable resources.) Not all of your resources count toward the SSI resource limit. For example:
•        The home you live in and the land it's on do not count.
•        Your personal effects and household goods do not count.
•        Life insurance policies may not count, depending on their value.
•        Your car usually does not count.
•        Burial plots for you and members of your immediate family do not count.
•        Up to $1,500 in burial funds for you and up to $1,500 in burial funds for your spouse may not count.
•        If you are blind or have a disability, some items may not count if you plan to use them to work or earn extra income.
You may also wish to read our material on "resources" in the booklet, Understanding SSI at


I want to apply for Medicare Part B medical insurance this year. When is the deadline to apply?
If you didn’t sign up for Medicare Part B medical insurance when you first became eligible for Medicare, you now have an
opportunity to apply — but time is running out. The deadline for applying during the general enrollment period is March 31. If you
miss the deadline, you may have to wait until 2013 to apply. Medicare Part B covers some medical expenses not covered by
Medicare Part A (hospital insurance), such as doctors’ fees, outpatient hospital visits, and other medical supplies. You can learn
more about Medicare by reading our electronic booklet, Medicare at

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